Sunday, December 31, 2023

Maybe It’s Our Time

By David R. Ferguson
 
    In writing to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul stated, 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 [ESV])
    One of the most difficult things to do is watch a beloved parent, who in former years you looked upon as a stalwart of strength, slowly lose the vitality he or she formerly possessed, and witness their former vigor sapped away through the slowly encroaching years. As the ensuing years pass by, hard decisions need to be made. One of my longtime friends shared with me recently a similar situation his family was facing regarding his own father. This is how he described it.
    The tension in the room was palpable. It could be literally felt. His elderly father was in the living room, and his mother, the loyal wife of 67 years, was frustrated because my friend’s sister and brother had suggested that their father should stop driving. As they continued their discussion, my friend prayed for words that would help. When the tension eased for a moment, and emotions had calmed down, my friend felt the time was right for him to approach his father. Understanding that his father had been a proud man, and never looked for a handout or wanted to be a burden to anyone, my friend began the conversation by talking about the ways his father had helped people throughout the years. He finally asked his father if helping others had been a burden to him. His father thought for a moment as a smile creased his face, and he replied, “No, it was never a burden. In fact, I always felt it was a great blessing to help others that brought him great joy.” My friend responded with a smile of his own, saying gently to his father, “Then might I suggest that maybe the time has come for others to experience that same joy by helping you.” His father agreed, saying he had not thought of it this way before.
    Many of us go through life determined to do everything ourselves. In our family, at work, and perhaps especially as we age, we are determined to go it alone and not to be a burden to others. However, God has created us to live in fellowship with one another. Over time our roles change. Sometimes we are the ones who help, and sometimes we are the ones who receive help. This is the beauty of fellowship in God. But don’t be afraid to ask for help of those who are your brothers and sisters in the Lord. That’s what we are here for.

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://mentorchurchofchrist.com/ or davidferguson61@yahoo.com


What Will You Allow God Do With You?

By Joe Chesser


    When God sent Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel, He had something different in mind. Israel’s first king, Saul, was the people’s choice.  The people had wanted to be like the other nations around them. They no longer wanted to let God be their King.  In fact they never really did since leaving Egypt (1 Sam. 8:4-9). So, God allowed them to have a king that would please their desires, though severe warnings had been given about what this king would do to the people (1 Sam. 8:10-18). They didn’t care. They didn’t want to listen to God; they wanted a king. So, God gave them Saul.
    This time, however, God was going to do something different. He wasn’t going to appoint the next king according to the thinking of the people. Instead, He was going to choose a new king that would please Him. When God sent Samuel to anoint the next king, he learned that God looked at things much differently than people do. People look at the outward appearance; God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). God chose David, the 8th son of Jesse.  David wasn’t the strongest or the most experienced person for the job. In fact, he was just a youth when anointed, and likely in his mid-teens when he fought Goliath.  But, and this is huge, it didn’t matter how old or how strong or how experienced David was, he was the man for the job because God was with him! It says that from the day Samuel anointed David, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him with power (1 Sam. 16:13).
    Here's the point. When the Spirit of God comes upon someone, powerful things can happen. Despite the weaknesses of the individual, the Spirit can do marvelous things through those people. The Spirit of the Lord came upon men like Othniel, Gideon and Samson, and empowered them to win battles and judge the Israelites. The Spirit of the Lord came upon men like Isaiah, Amos and Jonah, and empowered them to prophesy to sinful nations. God doesn’t need the strong or the intelligent or the influential to do His work. He just needs people with willing hearts to allow Him to work through them. God saw David’s heart and knew that when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, remarkable things would happen. In a very short time David’s reputation became “… he knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man.  And the Lord is with him” (1 Sam. 16:18). Only 5 verses after the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power.
    What can God do with you? If you have a heart like David’s, what can God do with you? If you allow the Spirit of the Lord to work through you, what can God do with you? If you have faith and refuse to quench the Spirit, what can God do with you? What can He help you become? What can He help you do? Answer: anything He wants!
    God wants your next door neighbor to learn about Christ. Can He use you?
    God wants those who are suffering to be comforted. Can He use you?
    God wants godly leaders in His church. Can He use you?
    God wants to show the world what true love is.  Can He use you?
    God wants the church to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). Can He use you?
    God wants to  ____________________ (fill in the blank).
    Will you allow God to work mightily through you? 
    Will you do it today?


- Joe Chesser worked for years with the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. Now retired from full time preaching, he may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Are You Glad?

By Joe Slater
 
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go unto the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).
    David wrote this psalm before the Jerusalem Temple existed. He only recently had brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city, placing it into the Tabernacle (tent) he had prepared for it (either the Tabernacle that had been made after the Exodus or one David made of that design), 2 Samuel 6:17. Referring to the Tabernacle as the “house of the Lord” was entirely appropriate; it was the designated place where God’s people came to worship, and Jerusalem was the recognized city where the they observed the three major annual feasts.
    Question: Are you glad when it’s time to assemble for worship? We understand that it’s not the meeting house but the Christians meeting in it that are the “house of God.” But Christians do, indeed, meet! The very word “church” means “assembly.” So, my question remains: “Are you glad when it’s time to assemble for worship?”
    Psalm 122 (quoted above) is a “song of ascents,” one of the songs the Israelites sang as they ascended to Zion (Jerusalem) for one of the feast days. For Christians, the first day of each week is a feast day. But the focus of our feast isn’t satisfying our stomachs with food and drink; it’s remembering the body and blood of our Savior by eating unleavened bread and drinking the fruit of the vine in memory of Him. We also celebrate our oneness in Christ as we observe this spiritual feast together.
    I was greatly edified a short time back when one of our young men, while leading a prayer, mentioned that “we are happy to be here.” That certainly was David’s attitude as he penned the psalm, and it ought to be ours as well.

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com


12 Steps Toward Better Attitude

By Gerald Cowan
 
One: Look for the good in everything, no matter what.  Don’t ignore the  bad or pretend it isn’t bad. That is unrealistic ( Mt. 7:1-5). Don’t focus on the bad to the exclusion of the good. There is either something good in everything that happens or something in it that can be turned to God.  Remember, God will works with you to bring good out of  everything that happens – even the bad things. Rom. 8:28 RSV
 
Two: By an act of your own will, ban all suggestive, lustful, and immoral things from your mind.  Let God transform your mind and your mind d from within (Rom. 12:2). But God doesn’t tend the doors of your  mind, keeping bad out, letting only good to come in. You must do that for yourself.  Prov. 4:23
 
Three: By an act of your own will, fill your mind with positive things, including thanksgiving.   Phil. 4:8 
 
Four: Never welcome of surrender to negative emotions (Eph. 4:31-32).  Plant only good seeds in the mind and tend the plants to keep them healthy. Don’t expect God to do your present “weeding” for you. Don’t just hope you can cut or remove the weeds when they appear (Mt. 13:28-29). Fill all the available space with something  positive, healthy and helpful. Weeds will not grow where no space is allowed to them.
 
Five:   Practice the ‘as if’ principle.  If you want to develop a good characteristic ...  Act as if you already have it. Then develop it, nurture it in all the ways required to avoid the loss of it. To make an improvement or change in relationships or secure them or win approval and favor as if you know it is going to happen, act as if it has already happened.
 
Six: Determine to have an attitude of love and good will ( Phil. 2:1-4).  Change your
attitude toward others – be positive toward them and they will change their attitude to positive  toward you.   When each one waits for the other to take the first step, no steps get taken.
 
Seven: See and acknowledge the good in others (1 John 1:4-7, 2 John 4, 3 John 3-4). Be thankful for the potential for good that is in others.  Believe the good can be cultivated and the negative removed from others.
 
Eight: Be an ambassador of good will and good works to every person you meet.  It is one thing to wish a person well.  3 John 2  but... actually do the good works, don’t just wish it (or pray it) for them.  James 2:15-16
 
Nine: Practice the principle of replacement. Return good for evil, overcome evil with good.  Rom. 12:21 
 
Ten: Express appreciation and praise for what others do (or attempt to do) for you.  Phil. 1:19-20 
 
Eleven: Allow others to give to you and do things for you.  It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), but some are content just to receive and feel no urge to  “do unto others what you want done to you” (Mt. 7:12).  Do not refuse to receive. Let others have the blessing of giving to you or doing something for you. Be a blessing facilitator – willing to receive so others could be blessed by giving. Although that feeling can easily be warped there is certainly a measure of valid truth in it.  We all need both the blessing of giving and the blessing of receiving.  
 
Twelve: Practice positive prayer. Phil. 4:6-7

- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com



Seven Bucks

By David A. Sargent

 

    UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is a brutal sport, but out of the arena comes a heartwarming story.

    Themba Gorimbo is from Zimbabwe.  He lost his parents at a young age.  He later almost lost his life while illegally mining for diamonds in Zimbabwe.  He became a UFC fighter to make his way through life.  This journey brought him to Miami where he convinced his coach to allow him to sleep on a couch in the gym so he could train to become a better fighter.

    Gorimbo trained and entered the ring.  He won his first professional fight on May 20, 2023.  Instead of spending his earnings on himself (for a place to live, etc.), he sent the money he made from the fight back home to Zimbabwe to help provide his village with a water well.  His generosity is magnified when we understand that before winning his first fight, Gorimbo had only $7 in the bank.

    Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson heard about Gorimbo, and he wanted to help him.  Johnson flew to Miami to meet Gorimbo in person.  When they met, Johnson told Gorimbo: “Your story moved me. When I found out you had seven bucks in your bank account — I know what that’s like. I was here in Miami when I had seven bucks,” Johnson said. “But then, you win your fight, and you sell your fight kit, you buy a water well for your village in Zimbabwe so your people can have clean water… You could have taken that money and put it down on a car, on an apartment. But you didn’t. You took care of your people, and that just says exactly who you are and that’s why I flew all the way in, man, just to look you in the eyes, brother, and tell you I got your back.”

    And how did Johnson “have his back”?  Johnson asked Gorimbo to go for a ride with him.  He took him to a house under the guise of introducing Gorimbo to a friend who could help him.  When they went into the house, Johnson surprised Gorimbo with the keys to the home; he had purchased it for him.  He already had pictures of Gorimbo’s family on display in his new home.

    To say that Gorimbo was overwhelmed with gratitude is an understatement.  This gift stirred generosity in his heart again.  Gorimbo told Johson that he had been saving money to buy a home.  Now, since Johnson had provided a home for him, he was going to send the money he had saved to build another well in Zimbabwe.

    “I am very grateful of [‘the Rock’] for what he did for me and my family. This was the best day of my life. This was a life changing day. My life has been changed, and I will use this as motivation to change others lives, too. I am very very grateful to everyone.”

    Because of our sins, we have been left destitute – spiritually bankrupt – and doomed (Romans 6:23).

    But God loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16).  Through His atoning death and our acceptance of His offer of salvation, we can share in the abundant spiritual blessings that God offers: forgiveness of sins, peace that passes understanding, a forever family (the church), an eternal home in heaven, and more (Ephesians 1:3).

    God will share these blessings with those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin and prepare an eternal home for those who continue to walk in light of His word (1 John 1:7-9).

    In our sin, we have less than seven bucks, spiritually.  Yet, our loving God desires to share with us the glorious spiritual riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).  As Gorimbo tweeted, “God is the greatest.”

- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org

* Information gleaned from “Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson buys UFC fighter new home after first win: ‘Your story moved me’” by Paulina Dedaj of Fox News, www.foxnews.com.



Sunday, December 24, 2023

Cast Off Your Coat

By Donna Wittlif

 

“And he, casting away his garment, sprang up, and

came to Jesus” (Mark 10:50).

    How would you make a living if you were blind? Today there are many ways a blind person can earn money, but in the time of Bartimaeus, one could only sit by the roadside and endure the shame of begging. That’s what blind Bartimaeus was doing when he heard that Jesus was coming his way.

    Bartimaeus was desperate for help. He cried loudly, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” Over and over his pleas sounded. He grew so loud and persistent that his voice probably made it hard for the people to hear Jesus’ preaching. Many rebuked him and told him to shut up. But he kept yelling until Jesus called for him.

    Then he did an amazing thing. In his eagerness, he sprang to his feet and cast off his outer garment. It kept him warm during cold days, and he used it for a blanket when he had to sleep on the street. But now, it was an impediment to his reaching Jesus quickly. It was a garment of shame that reminded him of his plight. He was willing to give it up for a most precious gift—meeting Jesus and receiving his sight.

    Like blind Bartimaeus, we all have a coat that can be a hindrance to our Christian lives. Perhaps it is sin that brings shame and sorrow. Maybe it is trouble and sadness. It can be a lack of faith in God’s power and willingness to help us. If you have such an impediment, now is the time to throw it off and believe in God’s power to heal you and make you whole through Jesus Christ. When He calls for you, be like Bartimaeus and eagerly run to Him.

- Donna Wittlif, the founder and first editor of BulletinGold, lives in Ft. Worth, TX. Donna is a writer of Christian fiction and non-fiction. Her nonfiction books, God's Desires for You: A Biblical Guide to Salvation and Our Stronghold in Prayer: A Women's Class Book and Prayer Journal, are available at Amazon.com: Donna R. Wittlif: books, biography, latest update  Donna lives in Ft. Worth, Texas.



Life’s Changes

By Ronald Bartanen
 
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
    There is no “variableness, neither shadow of turning” with God.  The God of Genesis 1:1 is the God of Revelation 22:20.   He does not contradict Himself.  Because He is unchangeable, He is dependable.  We can trust Him to be true to His word.  We can lean upon His promises when everything in life seems to be failing us.  The writer of the lyrics of the song  “Abide with Me,” when facing death, wrote, “Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.  Change and decay in all around I see.  O Thou that changest not, abide with me.”
    All that is in the world, however, has been in constant change.  God once repeatedly said of His creation, “It is good.”  But then sin entered into the world, and it has never been the same.  History is the record of change.  Empires, once powerful, have passed away.  Rulers come and go.  Our president won the election on the promise of “change.”   There is no segment of life that is unchangeable.
    Change is evident in us all—for the better or for the worse.  Life is full of changes from birth to death.  Whether we like it or not, we change physically.  If you don’t think you have changed much, find a 10-year-old photo of yourself, and then look into the mirror.  The church changes.  We must always seek to better reflect Christ as individuals and as the church, which would be a blessing, but we must guard against an adverse change to mirror the world rather than Christ.  Of course this is not to say all changes must be avoided.  While we are blessed with an unchangeable gospel, the means of making the message of Christ more accessible has become accepted.  For instance, while there is much on TV or the Internet that promotes evil, we do well to not surrender these media to the devil, laying claim to them for Christ’s sake.  As individuals and congregations, we do well to follow Paul’s advice in Romans 12:2: “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
    God does not change.  While we, with all of creation, are subject to change, we serve an unchangeable God.  He reminded Israel in the Old Testament, “I am the LORD:  I do not change—therefore, you sons of Jacob are not consumed.”   Other ancient nations and empires have vanished, God has, for His name’s sake, protected Israel from the likes of Hitler, who desired to rid the world of Jews, even while they are largely still rejecting Christ.  That is the same God who blesses us in Christ.  Unlike us, God does not ever “get up on the wrong side of the bed.”  He is not subject to change of mood or change of mind.  Nor is His Son.  The old saying, “Like father, like son,” is especially true regarding Christ, who is “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
    God’s word does not change.  To “keep one’s word” seems difficult for us, God has no problem with His word.  A politician’s words may come back to haunt him if he’s elected.  Campaign promises are easily made, and easily forgotten.  They’re often made to get elected.  But God is not campaigning for our votes.  God’s words and deeds are timeless.  The moral principles of the Old Testament are unchanged in the New.   “Judeo-Christian values” (Biblical) are increasingly pushed away by the world.  Man wants to make himself god.  He removed God’s Ten Commandments from court-and-school halls and decided he doesn’t want to be that strict.  It laid the path to abortion rights, gay rights, etc., and we can be sure there will be more to come.
    The Gospel is unchanged after almost 2000 years.  It is the one gospel our Savior and Lord instructed us to promote until He returns, instructing His disciples just before He departed to be enthroned in Heaven, “All authority is given me in Heaven and on earth.  Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20).  It is to be unchanged because of its source— “not according to man,” but “through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12)   Paul also made it clear that no other “gospel” could displace it (Galatians 1:6-9).

    The means of accepting the Good News of Jesus dying for our sins, being buried and then raised from the dead was, in NEW Testament times, to be both believed and obeyed.  Upon a turning away from sin, believers of the Gospel confessed their faith, in Christ as Paul explained in Romans 6:1-7, and then adding in vs. 17-18, “though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered, and having been set free from sin and became slaves of righteousness.”  God’s plan remains unchanged.  There could be no greater change in a person’s life than this!  

- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. After the passing of his beloved wife, Doris, Ron has relocated from Illinois to Florida where he is near family. He may be contacted at: ron33dor@yahoo.com



 

Do We See the Value of Wisdom?

By Wes Garland
 
    Wisdom is defined as the capacity of the mind that involves both knowledge and the ability to direct the mind toward a full understanding of human life and toward its moral fulfillment (Baker Encyclopedia). If you consider this, it is something that would be a valuable thing to have to live this life. However, not everyone sees the true value of this  and wants to live their lives the way they want to live it. As a result, people make bad choices, go down paths they should avoid, and end up living a life full of misery, stress, and anxiety. But what does God say concerning the wisdom that comes from Him?
 
Proverbs 3:13-18
13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; 14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. 16 Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her   18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her.
 
    My friends, the way that we look at wisdom will determine the life that we will have. Do we long to have it? Do we long to live a happier, more fulfilled life? One that is profitable and not full of foolish decisions and mistakes? It all begins with how we view wisdom from God and the desire to do what we have to do to obtain it. God us because He made us. Don't you think He would EXACTLY what we need and the direction we need to go to have the best life possible?

- Wesley Garland preaches for Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/



Sheep Need A Shepherd

By Ed Wittlif

 

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the

dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood

of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you

may do His will, working in us that is pleasing in His sight,

through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

(Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV).

    I never liked being compared to sheep even before I read Phillip Keller’s “A Shepherd Looks at The Good Shepherd.” Sheep blindly follow one another; they constantly go astray; they are unable to find their way back, and they are helpless. When I learned those things and more about sheep, I must admit that God comparing us with sheep is a good comparison.

    “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). I know, O LORD, that the way of a man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). We like to be in control of our lives. When we are young, we believe that we are invincible. We feel certain we are going in the right direction. The truth is that we are just stumbling blindly along, heading toward destruction.

    Jesus told a parable about a lost sheep and how the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine where they are safe and goes to seek the one lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). God sent His Son among the sheep with the purpose, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus is the good Shepherd who takes care of His sheep.

    Our Shepherd guides and equips us with everything we need. To follow His lead, we must be in His word, seek His help through prayer, and seek aid from brethren who are spiritually mature so that we will stay on the right path.

- Ed Wittlif lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Ed has written two books, Baptism What is it Good For? and 52 Devotionals on Spiritual Warfare. Both are available on Amazon, He has served the church in many roles and as a shepherd. Ed can be reached at es_witt_504@yahoo.com.


SITTING AND WAITING

By Bill Brandstatter
 
    We spend a great deal of time sitting and waiting. In the past few months this has happened to me at the doctor’s office, at a car dealership, and at a tire store. I also have been put on hold while using the phone. There was music playing but I had to wait. In our age of instant and quick, it is hard to wait.
    Often in our spiritual lives, we want instant solutions to complicated problems. In marriages we want instant solutions. Sometimes we may have to wait. Isaiah wrote that “He who waits on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Is. 40:31)
    We need to let God do His part. So often in our fast-paced, instant society, we try to rush God. Abraham and Sarah tried this. When God told Abraham that through him all nations of the earth would be blessed, neither he nor Sarah could understand how that could be. Both were near or at 100 years of age. Sarah could not have children; so, they thought God meant some other way. So, Abraham had a child by Sarah's handmaid, Hagar. (Gn. 16:1-4) Later, God enabled Sarah to have a child. (Gen. 21:1-3) If only they had waited.
    We should wait on the Lord with patience. David wrote: “I waited patiently for the LORD: and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1) Patience is hard for many people. I am reminded of the preacher who prayed, “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me right now.” Sometimes that is how we react to our requests to God.
    We should wait on the Lord with courage. David must have known about waiting. He wrote about it again in the 27th Psalm. There he states, “Wait on the LORD, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen you heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Ps. 27:14) Let us wait for the Lord to give us courage. We can be strengthened through the Word of the Lord and prayer. This will help us to be “strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Eph. 6:10-18)
    We should wait on the Lord with great hope. In Ps. 130:5, we read: “I wait for the LORD my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.” Without the Word of God, we would not know the hope of salvation, the hope of a good life here, and the hope of a home in heaven. Thank God we have His Word to provide the hope we need in troubled times. Let us be better at waiting on God. We will be blessed and God will be pleased.

Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Sunday, December 17, 2023

Paid in Full!

By Joe Chesser
 
    Years ago when the final payment was made on an installment loan, the bank would stamp in large letters on the original application “Paid in Full!” In this electronic age I don’t know if financial institutions still do that, but even if we don’t get a piece of paper with the “Paid in Full!” stamp on it, when a loan is finally paid off, it sure feels good.  Making that final payment and having a debt “Paid in Full!” is just plain exciting.
    Jesus told a story about a man who owed such a huge debt that he could never have paid it off (Matthew 18).  I mean he owed a man millions of dollars, and that was in the 1st century!  When the debt came due, all the man could do was fall on his knees and beg for mercy.  Try that at your bank.  It doesn’t work.  But that time the unheard of happened.  The man felt sorry for the one who owed him so much and stamped the parchment (or whatever) “Paid in Full!”  He cancelled the entire debt!  The balance was now $0.00.  If that had been you, how grateful would you have felt?
    And that’s just about money. We owe a debt that we can never pay.  Even if we have millions of dollars, billions of dollars, we could never pay the debt we owe.  It simply is not within our power to pay off our debt because our debt is not about something as frivolous as money.  Our debt involves sin, which by nature makes us objects of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  And yet, because of the love and mercy of God, our enormous debt can be stamped “Paid in Full!”
    I said “can be” because not everyone’s sin debt will be cancelled.  The other day I heard someone say that, although everyone will die with their debt of sin entirely paid, how sad it is that most will die without having their personal debt cancelled by Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14).  The cross has the potential power to cancel every sin committed by every person who has or will live on this earth.  Unfortunately, only a relatively few will accept the offer of forgiveness and obey the gospel to access this grace. While the cross “Paid in Full!” the sins of everyone, only those “in Christ” (see Galatians 3:26-27) receive the actual cancellation of the debt of sin: “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us …” (Ephesians 1:7-8). I dare say that no one would refuse to have their mortgage paid off by doing something as equally simple as God offers us to have our sin debt “Paid in Full!” by obeying the gospel. It is shocking what we will do for a few dollars and won’t do for forgiveness of sins!
    But for those of us who choose to see the bigger picture, for those of us who do know that saving our souls by the blood of Jesus is the most important thing we can accomplish in this life, how very grateful we should be that Jesus was willing and able to cancel our debt and mark it “Paid in Full!”  We cannot thank him enough.  But we can keep him the focus of our present life and the hope of our future life.  And we can do whatever we can to help as many other people come to know the awesome blessing of the cross.

- Joe Chesser worked for years with the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. Now retired from full time preaching, he may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Thanksgiving

By Ron Thomas


    If we all think about it for a few moments, each of us would have much to say about those things in life for which we are grateful. All of us, I hope, are grateful for our families. All of us, I hope, are grateful for the employment we have, the material blessings afforded us, our friends, etc. There is an appropriateness to thank the Lord for such things in our lives.
    Are you grateful for the Lord’s church? No doubt many of you pray for the local church frequently, expressing to Him who is above all how grateful you are. Think of Ephesians 5:27 a little along this line.
that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (ASV).
    How can we express our thanksgiving to the Lord for His church? Since the Lord is going to present to Himself the church as a glorious body of the saved, we need to consider the life we live. Is the life we live, individually, a holy life, or a confused life. If it is confused, perhaps it may be confused for one of three reasons. First, if it is confusing, is it because we don’t know something? The remedy for that is Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And light unto my path (119:105, ASV). Let us turn on the light and walk clearly. Second, if it is confusing, is it because we refuse to submit ourselves to the Lord’s teaching? If so, then let us be reminded that It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31). Third, if it is confusing, is it because we struggle with implementation of the Lord’s words, but the distractions scream at us? Then let us resolve to minimize those distractions by setting your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth (Col. 3:2).
    When there no longer is any confusion, one’s gratitude is reflected in his actions because his heart (mind) understands that which is important. Frequently, one can tell much by what another says, or does not say. When people see or hear you, what do they hear? Be sure to let them hear how grateful you are, not only for the things in life, but for Him who gives Life to those who obey Him.


- Ron Thomas preaches for the Church of Christ at Rio Grande in Bidwell, OH. He may be contacted at etsop95@gmail.com


“Think”fulness Leads to Thankfulness

By Edd Sterchi


    Did you know that our English words “think” and “thank” come from the same root? I believe that brings forth an important concept. Our thankfulness is based upon our “think”fullness. In other words, we can always give thanks if we just give it some thought.
    That’s what David seems to be doing in the 103rd Psalm. He begins by saying “Bless the LORD” (v.1). That phrase in the Hebrew means to express gratitude. He then states, “And forget not all His benefits” (v.2). David then goes on to list a few “benefits” of knowing the Lord, like forgiveness and healing (v.3), protection and blessings in life (v.4), food and revival of spirit (v.5) – on and on he goes.
    As David thought upon the benefits that God gives, his response was to thank Him. We should be no different. No matter what circumstances the world puts in our life, we can always thank God – if we’ll just take some time to think on Him! Think on what He has done and has promised to do. So give it a try – think and you will thank!

tag- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.broadwaychurchofchrist.net/


“GOOD NEWS” – The Gospel of Jesus Christ

By Gerald Cowan

    The word gospel has passed into the area of in-house religious jargon.  It has become an ambiguous word that can be interpreted or used in a variety of ways. Phrases in which the word gospel appears may also be difficult to understand and apply. Gospel Meeting, gospel sermon, and obeying the gospel, are examples.
We need to understand the real meaning and application of gospel as set forth in the NT. Not just the way it is used today, but... the way it was used and understood by the people to whom it first came. As the apostle Paul said: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16), and I am convinced that Christ has sent me to preach his gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17 and 9:16).  He is not saying only, “Woe to me if I do not preach” but also “Woe to me if what I preach is not the gospel.” 

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE WORD GOSPEL?

    The English word is from God-spel (derived from Gott-spiel), and is literally a God-story, a story or a message from or about God. This is certainly true of the New Testament collection of writings. It is both from God and about God, the Son of God, and the Spirit of God. But it is not an accurate translation of the Greek EUANGELION, “good news” or “good message.” EUANGELION (gospel) is the message itself, but the word does not specify either the source or content. Gospel identifies the source and content. Evangelism (transliterated) is the  preaching or proclamation of the message, an accurate report. 
    The content of the message:  It includes but is not limited to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor.  15:1-4) – Jesus himself preached the gospel (Mark 1:1, 14, 15).  It includes but is not limited to the plan of salvation (Rom. 1:16, 2 Thess. 2:13f). It includes but is not limited to history and prediction: the past, present, and future of all people and the world itself. God’s revelation of His interaction with and for the world begins in Genesis and continues through Revelation – every word, all the message that comes from the mouth of God (Matt, 4:4, Deut. 8:3). It includes but is not limited to the commands of God, both do’s and don’ts. We are required to “obey the gospel” (2 Thess. 1:8-10). One cannot obey the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, or any part of the story about the Lord. To obey the gospel means to respond properly to the whole counsel of God, all commands in the current covenant and law of  the Lord.  The gospel is the total revelation, whole counsel, complete message – the full truth of God.  Acts 20:27
    Some feel that a gospel meeting or a gospel sermon is one in which the first principles about salvation, worship, organization, etc. are taught, or when hell-fire judgment is pronounced upon such cardinal  sins  as dishonesty, immorality, drinking, smoking or doing other drugs, dancing, and immodest clothing – the list may vary according to the person or group denouncing the sins. 
    In the gospel (message, truth) that was stated or preached by Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18,   Mark 1:1, 14 and Matthew 10:5-7) he did outline the plan of salvation (Matt.  Mt. 10:32, John 6:45, Luke 13:3-5, and Mark 16:15-16).  He also preached on various aspects of righteous living – especially in the sermon on the mount — the “Beatitudes” (Mt. 5:1-10), worship and service to God (Mt. 6),  and service to mankind (Matt. 7). He preached on the burning social issues of his day: Marriage, divorce and remarriage, (Mt. 5 and 19), Corrupt or unjust governments (Mt. 5:38-42), Peaceful and passive resistance – no eye for an eye , no retaliation, but returning good for evil, going the second mile, etc (Mt. 5:38-42). What  part of the preaching of Jesus was gospel? All of it?  All of it!  No one can say that any of Jesus' words were not gospel.
    The gospel preached by Paul. Of the 75 references to gospel in the NT, 60 are in Paul's writings. He calls it the gospel (Rom. 1:16), my gospel (Rom. 2:16, 2 Tim. 2:8), our gospel (1 Thess. 1:5, 2:14), the gospel which I preach (Gal. 1:11).  He insists that there is but one gospel (Gal. 1:6), and that it must be preached in its fullness (Acts 20:20-21, 27, 32).  Paul preached far more than first principles (see and compare Heb. 5:12-6:1), social issues – slavery (Eph. 6, Col. 3, Philemon), government and civil obedience, (Rom. 13), Family relationships  – husband/wife, parent/child ( Eph. 5-6, 1 Cor. 7), and righteous daily living (Eph. 4:1 Walk worthy of your calling as Christian. (Eph. 4:24-5:7). All parts of Paul’s preaching were gospel. 

BOTH THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF THE GOSPEL ARE “GOOD NEWS.”

It says both DO and DON'T. Who can say which is more emphatic?  The negative statements are often easier to understand. Usually you will find the commands stated in both positive and negative form,  though not always in the same place. The negative commands are often more difficult to accept as gospel – that is to say, as “good news.” People do not like being told that they cannot, should not or must not do certain things. One who focuses his attention on something forbidden may end up with an obsession for it.
    Example: Adam and Eve were told they could eat anything in the garden except one fruit. Eve did quite well under the devil's questioning as long as she put the positive thing first. We can eat of all...except this one (Gen. 3:2-3). But when she turned her full attention to the forbidden fruit, she saw it, noted that it was good to look at, good to eat, and would make one wise, make one to be like God,  that was the one she wanted – so she ate it.
    Paul is an example of the opposite – from bad to good, from a negative to a positive approach.  (Rom. 7:7-25) His own spiit was at war with the Spirit of God.  Having learned that he should not covet, he found himself coveting things and sinning in the doing – sinning and dying (Rom. 7:7-11). This does not make the Law bad. The Law is good; the Law brings life. Wrong attitudes and wrong responses  to the Law bring death (7:12-16).  When he focused his attention on Christ instead of on the sin, he found his problem solved (7:25). Your attitude, positive or negative, will determine whether you like the gospel or hate it, whether you feel it is a blessing or a burden to you.
    Amazing, isn’t it?  As long as you talk about what God and Christ have done and are willing to continue doing for you, your words are welcome – they sound like good news to the hearer. But when you segue into the do’s and don’ts, the emphasis on what one must do and must not do – and the results and consequences of one’s attitudes and actions – it seems like bad news to the hearer. Humans are basically selfish and self-centered, concerned more about privileges and freedom than about responsibilities and restrictions. They want the way to be easy and pleasant.  They do not appreciate a difficult way that is narrow and with strict boundaries that one is not allowed to cross with impunity, without severe penalties (Matthew 7:14-14).  
    People want a genial genie in a jar, completely subservient and accommodative to the wishes and will of those who find Him, obligated to serve them and please them in everything. They do not want a demanding commanding God who insists that He is the One who must be pleased (Heb. 13:15-16, 20-21. 
    If we consider what is at the end of the road we are called upon to walk, and the end of the road we are warned not to walk we will surely find that both the invitation and the warnings are indeed good news. Our minds cannot conceive of the real  beauty and joy of the  rewards God promises to the faithful (1 Cor. 2: 9-10). It is better than you are able to imagine;  God can do and will do more for us than we  are able to think or ask (Eph. 3:20-21). Surely the news of how to receive those blessings for ourselves is good news.  It must also be true that the end of the road for willful sinners is more terrible than the mind can imagine – there are no beauties, no blessings, and no joys in hell. This being true, surely the message about how to avoid that horrible end must also be good news.
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com


Be a Star

By David R. Ferguson

    One of my favorite passages from the Book of Daniel is the following: “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
    Usually around the holidays it is not uncommon to hear commercials enticing you to name a star after yourself or a loved one. Did you know you can view a star, register a star in your name, and receive it as a gift for only $34.95? There’s a better way, and it actually costs $34.95 less. With this plan, you can be a star instead of just renting one. When we access the insight of the righteousness that comes from God, and lead many to righteousness, then we can be a star in God's galaxy. And as one of His stars you can shine on leading others with the light to the saving Light that is found in Jesus Christ.
    From the beginning, light has been associated with the Presence and the glory of God. His first recorded words were, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). And at His command light burst forth into the darkness of a formless and empty world. In John chapter 1 Jesus is described as the Light that “shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” And Christ’s own words in John 8:12 were, “I am the Light of the world.”
    A burning bush signaled God’s Presence to Moses. God led the children of Israel by fire at night. A golden lampstand was to burn perpetually in the Holy Place of God’s Tabernacle and Temple, and a shining star led the wise men to the Christ Child. These are just a few of many examples throughout the Bible.
    In His first recorded sermon, Jesus tells His followers, “You are the light of the world,” just as He referred to Himself. We are intended as lights of the world to illuminate and give light to others. There is a wonderful example of this in nature – the Sun and Moon. The Moon has no light of its own. The source of its light is the Sun, which it reflects, causing it to appear to have light. In the same way, we have no light apart from Christ. We can, however, reflect Him and shine in the darkness of the world. We need to realize that this world is dark with sin and people need us as Christians to shine. As we look around at all the school shootings, the drugs, the crime, the constant and never-ending wars, and the diluting of the family we are reminded of how there are people hurting all around the world. People need the Lord and they need hope. We as children of God can give that to them if we just live as a shining example of Christ. We cannot keep Christ to ourselves. We have to flood the world with His Light! Remember, Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Which is in Heaven.”

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://mentorchurchofchrist.com/ or davidferguson61@yahoo.com

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Who is the Greatest? (Part 1)

By Clifton Angel
 
    I am confident that no true and faithful Christian will say of himself like the late Cassius Clay (aka, Muhammad Ali), “I am the Greatest!” However, among the same, there is real temptation, and often yielding, to thoughts, words, and actions which place one’s self above another. While we may not shout, “I am the Greatest,” we may pridefully believe our opinions, intentions, decisions, and even problems, are the greatest.
    Jesus’ apostles quarreled over the same; therefore, Jesus taught them (and us) how to do better. Jesus’ disciples asked Him, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt 18:1). Compiling the accounts of Mark 9:33–50 and Luke 9:46–50, we find they were actually disputing with one another while traveling to this location—a house. Jesus, knowing their hearts, asked, “What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?” (Mk 9:33). They were silent. He spoke directly to His twelve apostles, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). It seems this is where Matthew’s account reveals their admissive interjection, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” How astonishing that Jesus already answered the question, but they were blinded by pride! [Are we blinded by the same while reading this? Are we thinking of someone else to whom this might apply? Are we considering how it applies to us?]
    As we often need, Jesus gave them a living illustration. ...
“Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them” (Matt 18:2), “and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,” (Mk 9:36):
Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3–5).
Let’s not miss the irony Jesus often uses to helps us. His apostles’ quarrel was childish. His apostles’ blinding pride, which caused them to not hear the answer he likely had already given, was childish. Therefore, He placed before them a child. Jesus’ focus was not on the childishness that a child exhibits but on the child’s lowly position and humble purity. If we do not humble ourselves “as this little child,” we will be humbled for being childish and prideful (cf. Matt 23:12; Lk 14:11; 18:14).
    Jesus emphasized the blessedness of being “poor in spirit,” being willing to “mourn” rather than seeking false “comfort,” and being “meek” (Matt 5:3–5). Paul commanded the same humility, lowliness, and meekness (cf. Rom 12:1–21). When we have a problem, how often do we resort to the Scriptures to resolve it? When we have an opinion, how often do we open the Bible to compare it? When we make a decision, how often do we look to Jesus to approve it? Who is the greatest in the kingdom? Jesus.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/



 

Who is the Greatest? (Part 2)

By Clifton Angel
 
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me (Matt 18:5).
With a physical child in His arms as a living illustration, Jesus was no longer speaking of children. “One such little child” is “whosoever...shall humble himself as this little child” (18:4). It is this humble, subservient child of God that characterizes the “greatest” among God’s spiritual kingdom.
    Physical greatness is measured far differently than spiritual greatness. Jesus continually seeks to emphasize to the world that physical greatness means nothing in the grand scheme of life.
Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth (Luke 12:15).
 
Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Matt 20:25–28).
 
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth (Col 3:1–2).
    The religious leaders of Jesus’ day looks down upon the lowly and lost and considered them unworthy. Yet, these are they that are so often converted and become “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
    Before being run out of Galilee with death threats, Jesus read aloud prophecy of Himself in the Isaiah scroll:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18).
    Are we willing and ready to receive the same? Jesus’ word for “receive” in Matthew 18:5 carries with it the idea of hospitality and approval. How receptive are we of the lowly and lost? Will we preach the gospel to the poor, or only associate with the wealthy? Will we seek to heal the brokenhearted, or only approve of the merry? Will we preach deliverance to the captives, or only fellowship with the free? Will we receive them to sing with us, “I once was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see”?

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/



Who is the Greatest? (Part 3)

By Clifton Angel
 
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Matt 18:6).
 
    Christ’s carnal companions quarreled over physical greatness in a kingdom (the church) that would be spiritual. Jesus confronted their conceit with a lowly child “in his arms” (Mark 9:36): “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3–4).
    The humble Christian convert is to be received with approval and hospitality. If we do not, we do not receive Christ — we ourselves can become a “castaway” (Matt 18:5; cf. 1 Cor 9:27). This point is impressed further by our verse at hand: Matthew 18:6.
 
    Let’s consider two things about which Jesus was NOT talking. First, He was not talking about merely hurting someone’s feelings. Many falsely attach the modern meaning of “offend.” Certainly, Christians should not be so selfish and uncouth to spew hurtful words, whether in earnest or jest (cf. Col 4:6; Eph 4:29; 5:4; 2 Pet 1:7). Second, He was not talking about the physical child in his arms. I am convinced that the physical child was not of an accountable age to have Biblical faith and the ability to sin, and these are two key descriptors in this verse.
    “One of these little ones which believe in me” refers back to one who is converted to Christ as a humble servant in the church: a spiritual child of God. And the issue at hand is that members of the church can “offend” one another. This means to “cause to sin.” Joseph Thayer adds “to put a stumbling-block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall;” “to entice to sin” (et. al. in Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). Interestingly, the Greek word is the verb form of our English word “scandal.”
    How might we cause a fellow Christian to sin? Some ways include: Inviting them to engage in sinful practice (Acts 5:1–11; 1 Pet 4:1–5); Inviting them to violate their conscience (Rom 14; 1 Cor 8); Believing and teaching the Scriptures falsely (Matt 7:15–20; Rom 16:17); Comforting them or disregarding them in their own sinful practices (1 Cor 5–6; James 5:19–20); Creating unnecessary strife (Phil 2:3; 1 Tim 6:4; James 3:14–16); et. al. Contextually, Jesus is speaking directly to our reception (approval and hospitality) of the lowliest among us (cf. Matt 18:5). Notice how often these involve the words we use.
    A poor man was converted to Christ and he wore his dirty overalls to assemble that first Sunday as a Christian. He was met with prejudice, belittlement, and scolding by a long-time member of the church. He never assembled with Christ’s church, again. Do we need to remove the millstones and swim back to safety?

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/



Who is the Greatest? (Part 4)

By Clifton Angel
 
Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire (Matthew 18:7–9).
    “No man is an island.” This common phrase illustrates the principle that mankind is interdependent, interactional, and influential. Generally speaking, we cannot live without community and we cannot live without affecting and impacting others in some way. Therefore Jesus says, “It must needs be that offenses come” (18:7). Because we live in a world of sinful people who are interactional, it is simply a fact that occasions of causing another to stumble (sin, offense) will, and does, take place.
    Because of sin and being influenced by others to sin, woe or sorrow is pronounced upon the worldly. Furthermore, woe is pronounced specifically to the one who causes another to sin. With this, Jesus makes application to the fact that sometimes members of our own bodies (hand, foot, eyes) can cause us to sin. With our hands, we might choose to steal, brawl, murder, et al. With our feet, we might enter places we do not belong (Proverbs 4:26–27). With our eyes, we might lust to the point of sin (1 John 2:16; Matthew 5:27–28). With great hyperbole, Jesus impresses upon His disciples the need to do whatever it takes to avoid sin. I do not believe Jesus wants us to mutilate our bodies; however, He does want us to understand that sometimes extreme measures must be taken to keep ourselves faithful and free from sin.
    Considering the context of the apostles arguing over the false concept of ranking positions in Jesus’ kingdom, as would be seen in an earthly kingdom, Jesus saw fit to remind them of rudimentary principles he had been impressing upon them from the beginning of His ministry (cf. Matthew 5–7). All are able to learn better from these principles and ingrain them into their lives; yet, they are such that we must be reminded over and over (cf. 2 Peter 1:12–13). The apostles who argued over physical position would go on to learn better and live better, and one such apostle left us these words:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2:15–17).

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/



Who is the Greatest? (Part 5)

By Clifton Angel
 
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:10–15).
    Jesus circles back to the “littles ones” who make up the “greatest” in the church. In the world’s eyes, they may have been the lowest in social status: poor, homeless, foreigners, drug addicts, prostitutes, prisoners, and the list could continue. No matter one’s background, if he humbles himself and is truly converted to Christ, he is a most prized possession of God. Like the shepherd who has 100 sheep, each of the 100 is precious to him. So much so, that one lost sheep will motivate him to traverse the most difficult territories and tasks to find the lost sheep. Contextually, Jesus was sent primarily to the lost sheep of Israel, most of which the Jewish religious elites (scribes, chief priests, Pharisees) despised. In their eyes, the poor, homeless, foreigners, addicts, harlots, and convicts were not worthy of a relationship with God. Continually, Jesus showed that these of low social status would make up the “greatest” in the church more frequently than those with elitist mentalities.
    Church, how do we view souls? How do we view those who are lowest in social status? Do we see the value that God places upon them? That value only increases as they become Christians.
    Jesus reveals that “these little ones” (humble converts of Christ) possess heavenly angels who “always behold the face of my Father” (Matthew 18:10). Angels are special servants, created by God for His will. We are not told all that we might like to know about these special servants of God. Is it possible they are involved in the special care and providence that God has for His children (cf. 1 Peter 3:12; Hebrews 1:14)? Absolutely. Do we know exactly how such takes place? Absolutely not. Contextually, Jesus was impressing upon His disciples tempted by elitism that those Christians they consider the lowest in society have elite preference in heaven.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/